When Your Friends Are Hurting

On Men And Grief And Father’s Day

Father’s Day is Sunday. Hooray for all the dads. You make a lot of people’s worlds go round. Dustin and I were talking about this time last year a few days ago. About how we were still very much in the thick of all the anger and grief and confusion. About how a lot of things were happening in our hearts this time last year. I got to choose what we did for Mother’s Day, because duh. And so I chose to go out of town and drink a lot of beverages and not go to church. (Best decision ever.) Dustin got to choose what we did for Father’s Day, because duh. He chose church. I will never ever forget sitting in the back-ish of the auditorium as the preacher asked all of the dads to stand up so he could say a word and pray over them. And I immediately lost it. Like, alligator tears falling down my cheeks. Like, I need to leave this space right now but I can’t because ALL OF THE DADS ARE STANDING IN MY WAY. Like, I’m about to make some ugly cry noises up in here and that is going to be all kinds of awkward.That kind of lost it. I remember I just felt so sad. I felt sad that Dustin should have been standing up next to me and he wasn’t. I felt sad because he was supposed to be a dad at he just wasn’t. And I hated it so much.

And so I wanted to share this post Dustin wrote last year again, because I think it matters. Guys matter. Their hearts, their sadness, their grief… it all matters. Whether you’ve lost babies through foster care or adoption. Whether you’ve lost babies at birth or through miscarriages. Whether you’ve lost babies at 6 months or 16 years. Whether you’ve lost the idea of babies because infertility is very much a thing… Hugs to you this week, friend.


If there is anything that makes us more uncomfortable than grief itself, I think it might be grief and men. This experience has made me super aware of how much men grieve too, and how much there isn’t always a place for them to do that. It has made me want to scream, “don’t forget about the guys!” a time or two. I am so excited that Dustin decided to join in the conversation and share his side of the story and his experience with grief and loss. So we’re closing out our “When Your Friends Are Hurting” series today with this one. If you missed any of the others, check them out here. [adoption loss, miscarriages, divorce, and losing your mom to cancer] I am so grateful to the friends who were willing to be a part of this. Thank you for letting us hold on to and share your stories. Let’s keep these kinds of conversations going. They’re so good and so important. Deal?

On Monday, March 24, I woke up expecting to Skype with both Courtney and our son for the first time ever.  Courtney went to Uganda a few weeks early, so I was still at home in Nashville.  For several days, Courtney was only able to go visit JT at the orphanage for a few hours a day, but on that Monday, JT was going to be able to leave the oprphange and go stay with Courtney.  Each day leading up to that Monday, Courtney would send me pictures or videos, and I was so excited about getting to talk to him on Skype for the first time.

When I woke up on Monday, I checked my phone and pulled up several emails and messages from Courtney, and I immediately knew something was wrong.  After several attempts, we were finally able to Skype, but JT was not there.  As I sat and ate my cereal, I listened to Courtney explain the situation – something happened, and we would not be able to adopt JT. Seeing Courtney cry through the bad Skype connection was gut-wrenching.  Knowing that Courtney was 7,800 miles away and had to handle all of this alone destroyed me.

Once the conversation was over, I finished getting ready for the day and went to work.  I have learned, in recent years, the art of compartmentalizing my emotions.  My daily life and all of the good things exist in one compartment, while pain, anger, regret, fear, sadness, negativity, hurt, and loss each have their own compartments.  Life goes on, and everything runs smoothly as long as everything stays in its rightful spot.  As I drove to work, I struggled to find a compartment to put this news about JT, because walking into work with tears running down my cheeks would be embarrassing.  For the first few hours, I managed to hold myself together.  Then Courtney and I Skyped again during my lunch break, and I started to realize that it was going to be impossible to bottle up all of my emotions.

I managed to hold myself together until I returned home.  JT’s room had everything in its rightful place – the toys, books, bright colored sheets, and clothes.  Everything was ready to welcome this little guy into our home and our lives.  After eating half a bag of Santita’s corn chips, a gallon of salsa, and a few slices of pizza (with the help of an adult beverage or two), I went into JT’s room.  I sat down in the rocking chair by his bed, pulled out my phone, and watched the video of JT saying “Hi, Daddy!” and “I love you, Daddy!”  Cue the waterworks.  I was flooded with sadness, and I busted out in one of those ugly-cries girls always tweet about when they are watching “Parenthood.”

On several occasions throughout the following weeks, those fits would hit me at work, so I had to escape to a stall in the bathroom or go sit in my car until my eyes were no longer red and watery.  At least once a day, I still think of JT and wonder what he is doing, and I can feel the tears starting to well up.  Father’s Day at church was especially (and surprisingly) difficult to bear.  The preacher asked all of the fathers to stand, and as he prayed for them, I had to look up at the ceiling to keep the tears from falling down my face and puddling on the floor.

Courtney and I faced the same troubling experience in two very different ways.  She was there.  She met him, talked to him, hugged him, kissed him, and ultimately had to say “Good-bye” to him.  I only saw pictures and a couple of videos, but this feeling of emptiness will always be with me. It was heartbreaking having to pick her up from the airport a few days after we learned we could not adopt JT.  The next time I picked her up from the airport, she was supposed to have our son with her.  It was supposed to be a joyous occasion.  When I thought about my future, JT was a part of it. I pictured us going to Vanderbilt basketball and football games together, and I was inches away from purchasing season tickets.  I thought about playing catch with him and teaching him how to play basketball like my dad taught me.  I thought about going to the lake with him and seeing him jump into the water for the first time.  I envisioned taking him to Texas to introduce him to my family and friends (and Tex-Mex and real bar-b-q).

The people that helped me the most through the last 4 months have been the ones who felt the pain with me in that moment or found various ways to take care of us.  They didn’t try to sugar-coat the situation or find the silver lining.  They didn’t try to convince me to move forward. No one knew the “right words” to say because the whole deal was flat out awful.  The best encouragement came from the people who responded with a sincere “That sucks,” (some even added four-letter words to that sentence on my behalf), or “We are praying for you and JT,” or “What do you want us to bring you for dinner?”

As a man who hates showing emotions, these past few months have been a struggle for me, but I’m getting better.  It’s OK to have feelings. It’s OK to be a guy and to be vulnerable enough to show emotions.  Ultimately, I have learned that I can’t keep everything safely tucked away in a compartment. To the guys in the “grief trenches,” know that it is reasonable and normal to have emotions. Keeping everything bottled up or trying to play the tough guy when everything hits the fan is not a good idea.  We need to open up and “process” things (that’s counselor-speak Courtney likes to use from time to time).  In college, Courtney nearly broke up with me because I never showed my emotions, so having an open dialogue with Courtney about JT and the rest of our adoption process has been amazing and freeing.  Going through this with her and feeling safe about sharing what’s on my heart has brought a sense of peace to what we have been through, and it gives me encouragement as we continue through the rest of our adoption process.

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To The Ones Who Should Have Been

Mother’s Day is Sunday. And while I will be celebrating this holiday for the first time with a kiddo in my home, I can’t stop thinking about this time last year. I’ve had several people ask me what I’m doing for my first Mother’s Day. It’s a fine and valid question. Makes sense to ask it. I’ve been so caught off guard though at how much it all still stings a tiny bit. A whole year later. We still talk about him. We still wonder how he is and what he’s doing and if he’s okay. We still pray for him. His pictures are still all throughout our house. I remember so fully this week a year ago. How so physically sad I was. How mad I was that I wasn’t getting to celebrate a holiday that I was supposed to be celebrating. How unfair it all felt. How I chose to not go to church that Sunday and it was the best decision ever. (Sometimes church is just simply not the place to go when you’re hurting.) How accidentally excluded I felt, because not only was I not a mom when I should have been but my loss didn’t fit into a box and that sucked.

And so I wanted to share this again, because I think it matters. Whether you’ve lost babies through adoption or foster care. Whether you’ve lost babies at birth or had miscarriages. Whether you’ve lost babies at 6 months or 16 years. Whether you’ve lost the idea of babies because infertility is a very real thing…. Hugs to you this week, friend.


I should be a mom right now. I should be like, a real physical mom to an African toddler. I should be called mom by that said African toddler. I should be tucking him in bed every night and reading bed time stories. I should be taking him to the park and the zoo. I should be teaching him how to swim. I should be so tired because I’m chasing an insane 3 year old around all the live long day. I should be watching Curious George, singing the ABC’s, and teaching Bible stories.

I should have hilarious stories of life with a toddler. I should also have really hard stories of life with a toddler. I should be able to laugh with other moms as we share stories of raising little human beings. I should also be able to cry with them over the insanity that is being a mom. I should be able to share an alcoholic beverage with other moms because solidarity, sister. I should be coordinating play dates and outings to the park.

I should be having conversations with my husband about parenting and discipline. I should be laughing with him over funny things our kid did and said. I should be having to get babysitters so we can have what parents call “date night.” I should be forming family traditions and having family dinners. I should be sending my husband and son off on boys only outings.

I should be celebrating a holiday this weekend for the first time. I should be getting a cute homemade card and going to lunch with my family. I should be getting recognized in whichever way the church sees fit this year- standing up, flowers at the door, a mom speaker, pictures with your family, or something else.

I should be a mom right now. I should be like, a real physical mom to an African toddler. But I’m not.

And you know what? It stings. I’m a mom but I’m not a mom. I can feel the tension so thick in my heart. I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about walking through the doors of a church this weekend. I am already fighting back tears just thinking about watching all the other moms stand up as the congregation applauds them. I can feel my heart drop at the thought of a whole day of scrolling through social media and seeing cute pictures of moms and kids. I can feel the anger and sadness at the comments that have already been made and will be made all over again. The comments that make me feel like I’m the mom I know on the surface I’m not.

So this one is for the ones who should have been. If no one else sees you this weekend, I do. I see you. I see you because I’m one of you.

I’ll be the one sitting while all the other moms stand up. I’ll be the one trying not to audibly sob during whichever mom tribute is chosen this year. I’ll be the one at lunch without my child, the one not getting homemade cards, and the one not posting pictures of me and tiny tot. I’ll be the one smiling and nodding but probably just walking away from all the people who say all the wrong things.

I’ll be the one sitting because I was a mom for a minute, but I don’t have anything to show for it now. I’ll be the one trying not to sob because in my heart I am a mom to a little boy, I’m Mommy JT, but to the masses that doesn’t make sense so it can’t be, right? I’ll be the one not getting cards because they don’t make should have been cards. I’ll be the one not posting pictures because you can’t post pictures of things that should have been. I’ll be the one walking away from the people because walking away is just better at this point.

I should be a mom. You should be a mom. And if no one else tells you this weekend, I will. You are a mom. You’re a mom even if no one sees it. You’re a mom even if no one recognizes it. You’re a mom even if no one gets it. You are a mom. And to that I say, Happy Mother’s Day, friend.

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On Courage

I’m a counselor by profession. At least once every time I see my people I tell them how brave they are for showing up and sharing and doing really hard work. I tell them that it takes a whole lot of courage to do what they are doing. I tell them that they are doing work that a ton of people on this earth will never ever do. I tell them that it takes a lot of guts to talk about hard things; it takes a lot of guts to do the work of thinking back and remembering and talking about things that hurt. I tell them that when a lot of people would say that talking about our feelings is lame and unnecessary and sometimes stupid, I think it’s one of the bravest things anyone can do. It takes courage to be real and open and honest, and then to sit in the midst of all that and do work.

Why do we not do the things we tell other people? Someone please help me understand this.

A few weeks ago I was telling some friends how fearful I am to go back to Uganda. How afraid I am to willingly get on a plane and fly myself back to the place where all of the really hard things went down. How I’m so scared that I will get there and be paralyzed, paralyzed with sadness and fear and grief and anxiety. How genuinely terrified I am to do this again.

One of them looked at me and said, “Courtney, do you remember how hard it was for you to come home? Going back is going to be really hard, but to me you’ve already done the hardest thing.” Another one said something to the tune of, “Yeah I wish we had video footage of you when you first came home so you could see yourself. You were in a really dark place.” And then we had a good laugh because, YES.

I don’t ever think about hard it was to come home from Uganda. How physically sick I got when I received that phone call. How it seemed impossible to put on a smiling face and go play with a little boy for the very last time. How so very hard those plane rides home were. How sad it was to send that email telling everyone what happened. How I sobbed so audibly it almost hurts to think about now. How there were days I thought leaving my house might physically kill me. How showering and changing clothes was a really big deal for weeks. How terrible and hard it was to face people for the first time. How hard it was to realize that life keeps moving forward, it doesn’t stop just because sad things happen. How horrible going back to work was. How hard I cried driving away on the last day of school because I didn’t have to go back to a place that constantly (but not on purpose) reminded me of how I wasn’t supposed to be there. How hard it was to pack up a room meant for a kid who would never see it. How sad and angry and hurt I was. How genuinely hard it was to do the work of grieving, and then how genuinely hard it was to do the work of healing and moving forward.

I get why we do it. I think part of it is really protective. We don’t look back because it hurts and it’s hard and it isn’t fun. We don’t think back because we’re surviving and then when we aren’t surviving we’re figuring out a new normal. Moving forward makes it hard to remember sometimes. I think when hard things happen it’s easy to forget where we started. When we’re living in the aftermath of the hard we aren’t thinking about where we came from. But I’m learning that if we never look back it’s impossible to see how far we’ve come. Just like I tell my people, it takes a lot of courage to remember. It’s really brave to do the work of looking back.

I’m really into the definition of courage these days, strength in the face of pain or grief. I think courage is a lot of things. Courage is grieving; grieving the kid you lost, the relationship you were hurt in, or the dream that died. Courage is surviving; getting up and making yourself eat and shower and get dressed. Courage is moving forward; finding new happiness in the midst of pain. Courage is looking back and remembering; remembering how hard it was and how okay you are now. Courage is doing really hard things; packing up a room, going back to the place you were hurt, or talking about what happened. Courage: strength in the face of pain or grief. Yes, a thousand times yes.

I recently bought myself a necklace with the word courage on it. I wear it almost daily simply as a reminder. It’s not so much a reminder to have courage, but a reminder that I already do have it. I really wanted it to say something like, “Girl you can do hard sh*t” but apparently that’s too long to get engraved on a necklace, and Dustin said something about that being inappropriate. To that I say whatever, sometimes courage is inappropriate.

I think I’m learning that sometimes we just need a reminder. We just need someone to ask us, “Do you remember how hard it was for you to come home?” We need someone to tell us that you can do hard things. You’ve already done them.

On Making Sense Of Pain

I’m certainly not willing to drag other hurting mothers into my brain games as I try one idea or another on for size. I’m not going to tell a mother whose first grader was gunned down in a classroom that it was part of God’s plan. I may be there with Jack’s death on more days than I’m not, but I refuse to come to these conclusions for anyone else.

And it’s tricky. Because hurting people want to understand; we want to know why. But we don’t want people coming to conclusions for us, feeding us neat little answers of what God’s will is and how His mind and heart work. No thank you.

Anna Whiston- Donaldson, Rare Bird A Memoir Of Loss And Love

I spent a lot of time really angry at a lot of people. I was really angry at the words and the sentences people chose to say out loud to us. I could list them off to you, part of me really wants to. The sentences that stung and the sentences that made me burst into tears. The sentences that still to this day make my stomach hurt a little. Grief is so awkward, I so get it. No one knows what to say. We don’t like to see our people hurting.  We want our people to feel better and we want them to be happy. We don’t like messy things and grief is really messy.

But what I’m learning is that hurting people don’t need you to make sense of their pain. Hurting people don’t want you to do that. When you try and make sense of our pain, it hurts even more. It really does. We don’t need you to fix our grief. We don’t need you to find closure for us. And that’s what those sentences feel like, at least they did to me. They felt like other people were trying to fix it for me. Like other people were trying to make sense of what happened for me. The sentences about God’s will and God’s plan and how one day we will look back and know the purpose of all of this. The sentences that give reasons as to why this may have happened. The ones that try to make sense of it all. Those ones.

I’m learning that making sense of pain is an extremely personal process. So personal that even Dustin and I have done this part separately. We talk about it together, sure. But we don’t push our beliefs and reasons about the whole thing onto each other. We have this unspoken agreement that I won’t try and make sense of his pain if he won’t try and make sense of mine. However I’ve chosen to make sense of what happened is exactly what it is for that day. However he has chosen to make sense of what happened is exactly what it is for that day. Some days they are the same, other days they aren’t.

Ask me today and I will tell you that I think this was all a part of God’s marvelous plan. I believe God knew from the beginning this was how it was all going to go down. I’d tell you that I believe he caused this and made it happen. That God orchestrated all of this, down to the last detail. I’d tell you that I believe this needed to happen and that this served a mighty purpose for God’s kingdom.

Ask me on another day and I will tell you this was all Satan. That this was pure evil, every last part of it. I can hear God asking, “Where have you come from?” and Satan replying, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth in it.” I’d tell you that this resembled Job’s story is some capacity, that God allowed Satan to enter this story. That there was a battle waged in heaven over this tiny life and God simply chose to not intervene.

Ask me on another day and I will tell you there is no way God caused this. He may have allowed it to happen, but he did not plan it, cause it, or see it to completion. Some days my heart simply cannot believe that He did this. He did not. This is just a by product of living in a sinful and fallen world. Evil is real. Crap happens to good people. But our God doesn’t do stuff like this.

Ask me on another day and I will tell you I don’t know and I don’t really care. It doesn’t make sense and it never will. Even if God came down in the flesh, sat at my kitchen table and told us the purpose of all of this over dinner it still wouldn’t make sense. I’d tell you that God and I will most certainly be having a very serious discussion at the gates of heaven one day. But until then, I don’t care and I don’t want to talk about it.

I’m learning that there is no way to be awesome at grief. You just do it and you figure it out along the way. I’m learning that when people are hurting they will come to their own conclusions about what happened. They will make sense of it. They really will. It make take a really long time and it may be different every other day, but they will make sense of it and they will do it themselves. I’m learning that your people don’t need you to make sense of their pain. If you need to make sense of it yourself, by all means do that, but we don’t really want to hear about it (at least I didn’t). They just need you to be there with them while they figure it out. And when they do make sense of it? They will tell you. And if they haven’t told you? Ask them. Ask them how they’re making sense of everything and then do the thing that’s really hard… Don’t talk. Just listen.


We took a trip to Austin shortly after I got back from Uganda. We needed to go somewhere and Austin holds two people my heart really needed to see. I could write a whole chapter in a book about how important that trip was for my heart. For a hundred reasons we needed to specifically go there and we needed to specifically see them. The last morning we were there, my friend Jamie and I went for a walk. We talked about a lot of things from marriage to church to friends to family to what happened. She asked me a question that lead to one of my favorite conversations to date about it all. She simply asked me, “How are you making sense of all of this?” No one had asked me that question yet and it opened up a space I will forever be grateful for. And then she did something so beautiful, she just listened. She listened as I talked it out. She listened as I told her how I think this was God’s plan but how I also don’t know if I believe in a God who would plan something like this. She listened as I told her how I also think this was all Satan and how I think God let Satan do this. She listened as I told her how I also don’t know how to make sense of any of it and how there are days I really don’t care why or how it happened it just sucks.

I don’t think she said more than seven words during that part of the conversation. She never told me what she thought about what happened. She didn’t try to make my views on God pretty. She didn’t try to make sense of what happened or find closure in my pain. She just asked the question and then let the conversation be messy. It was one of those moments I will carry with me for a really really long time, if not forever.

When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Men And Grief

If there is anything that makes us more uncomfortable than grief itself, I think it might be grief and men. This experience has made me super aware of how much men grieve too, and how much there isn’t always a place for them to do that. It has made me want to scream, “don’t forget about the guys!” a time or two. I am so excited that Dustin decided to join in the conversation and share his side of the story and his experience with grief and loss. So we’re closing out our “When Your Friends Are Hurting” series today with this one. If you missed any of the others, check them out here. [adoption loss, miscarriages, divorce, and losing your mom to cancer] I am so grateful to the friends who were willing to be a part of this. Thank you for letting us hold on to and share your stories. Let’s keep these kinds of conversations going. They’re so good and so important. Deal?

On Monday, March 24, I woke up expecting to Skype with both Courtney and our son for the first time ever.  Courtney went to Uganda a few weeks early, so I was still at home in Nashville.  For several days, Courtney was only able to go visit JT at the orphanage for a few hours a day, but on that Monday, JT was going to be able to leave the oprphange and go stay with Courtney.  Each day leading up to that Monday, Courtney would send me pictures or videos, and I was so excited about getting to talk to him on Skype for the first time.

When I woke up on Monday, I checked my phone and pulled up several emails and messages from Courtney, and I immediately knew something was wrong.  After several attempts, we were finally able to Skype, but JT was not there.  As I sat and ate my cereal, I listened to Courtney explain the situation – something happened, and we would not be able to adopt JT. Seeing Courtney cry through the bad Skype connection was gut-wrenching.  Knowing that Courtney was 7,800 miles away and had to handle all of this alone destroyed me.

Once the conversation was over, I finished getting ready for the day and went to work.  I have learned, in recent years, the art of compartmentalizing my emotions.  My daily life and all of the good things exist in one compartment, while pain, anger, regret, fear, sadness, negativity, hurt, and loss each have their own compartments.  Life goes on, and everything runs smoothly as long as everything stays in its rightful spot.  As I drove to work, I struggled to find a compartment to put this news about JT, because walking into work with tears running down my cheeks would be embarrassing.  For the first few hours, I managed to hold myself together.  Then Courtney and I Skyped again during my lunch break, and I started to realize that it was going to be impossible to bottle up all of my emotions.

I managed to hold myself together until I returned home.  JT’s room had everything in its rightful place – the toys, books, bright colored sheets, and clothes.  Everything was ready to welcome this little guy into our home and our lives.  After eating half a bag of Santita’s corn chips, a gallon of salsa, and a few slices of pizza (with the help of an adult beverage or two), I went into JT’s room.  I sat down in the rocking chair by his bed, pulled out my phone, and watched the video of JT saying “Hi, Daddy!” and “I love you, Daddy!”  Cue the waterworks.  I was flooded with sadness, and I busted out in one of those ugly-cries girls always tweet about when they are watching “Parenthood.”

On several occasions throughout the following weeks, those fits would hit me at work, so I had to escape to a stall in the bathroom or go sit in my car until my eyes were no longer red and watery.  At least once a day, I still think of JT and wonder what he is doing, and I can feel the tears starting to well up.  Father’s Day at church was especially (and surprisingly) difficult to bear.  The preacher asked all of the fathers to stand, and as he prayed for them, I had to look up at the ceiling to keep the tears from falling down my face and puddling on the floor.

Courtney and I faced the same troubling experience in two very different ways.  She was there.  She met him, talked to him, hugged him, kissed him, and ultimately had to say “Good-bye” to him.  I only saw pictures and a couple of videos, but this feeling of emptiness will always be with me. It was heartbreaking having to pick her up from the airport a few days after we learned we could not adopt JT.  The next time I picked her up from the airport, she was supposed to have our son with her.  It was supposed to be a joyous occasion.  When I thought about my future, JT was a part of it. I pictured us going to Vanderbilt basketball and football games together, and I was inches away from purchasing season tickets.  I thought about playing catch with him and teaching him how to play basketball like my dad taught me.  I thought about going to the lake with him and seeing him jump into the water for the first time.  I envisioned taking him to Texas to introduce him to my family and friends (and Tex-Mex and real bar-b-q).

The people that helped me the most through the last 4 months have been the ones who felt the pain with me in that moment or found various ways to take care of us.  They didn’t try to sugar-coat the situation or find the silver lining.  They didn’t try to convince me to move forward. No one knew the “right words” to say because the whole deal was flat out awful.  The best encouragement came from the people who responded with a sincere “That sucks,” (some even added four-letter words to that sentence on my behalf), or “We are praying for you and JT,” or “What do you want us to bring you for dinner?”

As a man who hates showing emotions, these past few months have been a struggle for me, but I’m getting better.  It’s OK to have feelings. It’s OK to be a guy and to be vulnerable enough to show emotions.  Ultimately, I have learned that I can’t keep everything safely tucked away in a compartment. To the guys in the “grief trenches,” know that it is reasonable and normal to have emotions. Keeping everything bottled up or trying to play the tough guy when everything hits the fan is not a good idea.  We need to open up and “process” things (that’s counselor-speak Courtney likes to use from time to time).  In college, Courtney nearly broke up with me because I never showed my emotions, so having an open dialogue with Courtney about JT and the rest of our adoption process has been amazing and freeing.  Going through this with her and feeling safe about sharing what’s on my heart has brought a sense of peace to what we have been through, and it gives me encouragement as we continue through the rest of our adoption process.

When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Divorce (And Some Other Things)

We’re pressing on through our “When Your Friends Are Hurting” series. I hope you guys are loving it as much as I am. I’m learning so many good things. So, here’s story four (there are only five, so hang with me). If you’ve missed any of the other stories be sure to check them out here, here, and here. I’m really excited for you all to hear from my friend Kristen today. I love her story. She writes over on her blog, Graciously Authentic,about all of the things. Make sure you check her stuff out. Thank you Kristen for sharing with us!­­

Hi y’all! My name is Kristen and I’m so honored that Courtney asked me to share a little of my journey with you! I have shared bits and pieces on my blog Graciously Authentic, but I’m excited to share about the perspective of ways you can help and things to avoid.

kristen s (2)

My Story

I feel like I’m finally out of the fog that the past few years has been. For several years there has been a cloud of sadness and grief as I walked through the darkest valley of my life. There are many details to the story but I’ll try to keep it brief…

The Fall of 2011 a bomb went off in our marriage and what then ensued was a year and a half of the longest and most draining roller coaster of my life including three different separations, lots and lots and lots of counseling, lots of hard conversation, lots of tears and then restoration. Six months of happiness – we were on the road to reconciliation. We sold our townhouse, bought a big house in Franklin for our “new marriage,” as we called it. Our new start.

Five weeks after we purchased our big home in the suburbs my husband calmly told me that he was done, that he was finished. He couldn’t do it anymore. He wanted a divorce. Paint had barely even dried on the walls.

I remember where I was sitting. I remember the day in September. I remember just feeling exhausted and totally spent. I couldn’t fight for us anymore. A marriage cannot be saved by just one person. Divorce only takes one person. But I remember feeling the most bizarre sense of peace wash over me. I knew that I wasn’t truly alone, I knew that God was walking this journey with me.

I was a wreck because I knew that it was truly the end. I had no more fight left in me. The year and a half of arduous back and forth had worn me down. Of course I kept fervently praying, but I released all illusion of control that I didn’t really have back to God. And boy did He have other plans…

For weeks I didn’t feel like myself and I was sick with grief. I didn’t have an appetite. I was overwhelmed with a whole range of emotions – from relief that the madness might soon be over to absolute rage and bitterness. Three weeks after that talk I got so dizzy and nauseous I had to lie down. And that’s when it hit me.

I’m nauseous. I’m never nauseous. OH MY GOSH! When was my last period?!?! I don’t remember…. OH. MY. GOSH.

I instantly knew. I just knew I was pregnant. That night I took a pregnancy test… then two more just to confirm that yes indeed I was pregnant. My husband wasn’t even the first person I told.

I would never be able to accurately describe the whole range of emotions I felt at that moment: fear, sadness, but mostly just loneliness like I had never felt before. But even in the midst of all the feelings, I felt God’s overwhelming PEACE wash over me again and the nearness of his Presence.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I would be a single mom. Our divorce was already set in motion.

Those were by far the loneliest months of my life. Being pregnant isn’t a walk in the park, but being pregnant and doing it alone is no joke. There’s no one to share the joyful happiness, there isn’t pillow talk about names or which qualities we hope our babies inherits. Instead, it’s mostly fighting through the fear and anxiety and praying that God would remind you of His goodness.

Our son Baby J was born in the Spring and our divorce was final when he was 2 months old. Looking back now it’s incredibly easy to see God’s hand ALL over our story. He never left us alone.

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What NOT to Do:

There are so many things that you shouldn’t say to someone who’s going through a divorce and/or is pregnant without their partner, absolutely refrain from the following…

“I never really liked your husband anyway…” Seriously?!? At the time, I was still married and trying to reconcile with my husband, which made this comment even worse.

“All things happen for a reason.” Yes, I know that’s true. Yes, I know it’s biblical but SHUT UP. That doesn’t help when you’re in the throes of a crisis. Just sit with me. Cry with me. Eat ice cream with me. But don’t try to tie a cute bow on my circumstances.

“I know God has an amazing man out there for you.” Yes, that has always been my hope, but I’m not guaranteed an amazing husband. I know the desires of my heart, but saying things like that just reinforced the fact that I was in the situation in the first place.

Don’t be nosy. Don’t ask specific questions. It’s none of your business. So many people wanted to know really detailed specifics about divorce proceedings, what my Wasband (aka ex-husband) was doing, etc. Don’t ask. My life isn’t your reality TV show.

“Where’s your son?”  Envision with me: I go to a social event alone on a weekend when Baby J is with his dad and I constantly here this question. I always want to respond, “Well, I figured I could leave him in the car.” JUST KIDDING. The normal assumption would be that he’s with his Dad and that it’s not my weekend with him. Making a big deal about the fact that YOU can’t see him only reinforces the fact that I too can’t see him either.

Think before you ask questions. If you know my story, you know he has time with his Dad. A better thing you ask would be, “When do you have Jacob back? I’d love to set a play date to see him!”

Ways You Can Help

Ask specific, helpful questions:

  • What are some things that you really need (emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually?
  • Do you want to talk about it? There were some times that I wanted to talk about it, and then some times that I just wanted to talk about the latest Justin Timberlake album.
  • How can I help? And if you really mean it, keep asking until I’ve answered you.
  • WHEN can I come and babysit? And then hound me to finalize a date.
  • HOW can I pray for you? Then make me give you specifics.

For Those Going Through It

The best advice I can give you is to feel your feelings. All of them. Try not to be ashamed about whatever circumstances you find yourself in – going through a divorce, being a single mom, whatever it is. You are NOT labeled by your experiences. You are a son or daughter of the King, you are a child of God. THAT is your identity. Not whether or not you are a wife or have a perfect 2 parent, 2 kid plus a dog life. Life is MESSY. But don’t sit in the shame. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!!)

Pray that your heart would be protected. I prayed a very specific prayer walking through this whole journey – that the Lord would guard my heart from bitterness and not let the root of resentment grow in my heart. I didn’t want to turn into the bitter woman who only sees herself as the victim. It took constant work to tend to the garden in my heart and continue to give all of my fears, worries and anger over to Him. But I’m so thankful to say that that hard work has paid off. I am a VICTOR in Christ.

So What Now?

This is definitely just one chapter of my story and the beautiful story that is my life isn’t done yet. There are many chapters to come. This journey walking through the dismantling of our marriage, then a pregnancy alone, divorce proceedings, and then recovery from heartbreak – all while handing a newborn – it’s not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. It was crushing. But God used the process to draw me into Him in ways that I would never have experienced before. He is REAL to me now. He is my Shepherd, my Guide, my friend. And not in a hokey way. In the real, I experience His Presence kind of way.

It’s been almost a year since my divorce was final, and it’s been AMAZING to see God working in huge, powerful ways. He is redeeming. He is making all things new!

If you’re walking through a pregnancy alone or a divorce, know that you’re not alone. Or if you’re a friend of someone who’s walking this road and want advice on how to help, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email: Kristen@graciouslyauthentic.com

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When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Losing Your Mom To Cancer

What I’ve learned is that I have no self control when it comes to holding onto people’s stories and waiting to share them with you. It’s like the minute these things hit my inbox I want them published right that second for you to read. They’re just so good. So, here’s part three of the When Your Friends Are Hurting series. If you missed any of the others, you can check them out here and here. I’m excited for you to hear from my friend Katie today. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

I’m Katie. I’m married to Blake. We live in Texas with our one-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, our second baby set to join us in November who has yet to be named and our dog, Kevin. We are big fans of eating really good food, watching HGTV, and cheering on our favorite Dallas sports teams. We’re most of all huge fans of following Jesus and trying to love like He does.

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Our Story

In July 2008, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and after a three year journey that included numerous chemo and radiation treatments and two major surgeries, she joined Jesus on September 25, 2011.

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Because of the up and down nature of my mom’s cancer, I grieved the whole time she was sick. We were warned by doctors when she only had a few months left. God and I were having a lot of conversations at this point. I was begging Him to heal her; to show His power and might in a way that would bring Him glory. I remember praying one day and saying over and over again that I believed that He was powerful enough to take the cancer away completely. And I very clearly heard Him reply that day with, “I’m also powerful enough to take care of you if I don’t.” Realizing that God is sovereign in the very depths of my grief- talk about a faith game-changer.

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The day my mom died, my mind was silent. For three years, I had been in constant conversation with God and after she was gone, I had nothing left to say. I wasn’t angry or bitter but when the thing you’ve prayed for doesn’t happen, what are you supposed to say then? I felt a peace in that silence and I am convinced to this day that I was literally feeling all the prayers being lifted up on my behalf. When I had nothing left to say, others stepped in and the Lord was faithful in answering people’s pleas. Prayers are powerful, y’all.

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What To Do

When people die, other living people get awkward and uncomfortable. Grief is a weird and personal experience that everyone feels they have a right to experience in with you. This is awesome in a lot of ways but also uncomfortable in a lot of ways. I love that Courtney had the wisdom to have those of us who have experienced these things share our stories and what has helped us navigate through our grief. Here’s what helped us:

Go To The Funeral

Before my mom died, I didn’t think going to funerals was that important. That changed the moment I stepped up onto the stage to speak at my mom’s memorial service. I looked around into all the faces of the people who were sitting in those chairs and I felt extremely comforted just in the presence of people who were there to love on us by helping us remember and celebrate my mom’s life.

We had a unique situation in that we had the funeral service in my hometown, but we buried my mom three hours down the road. Only a handful of people attended both the funeral and the graveside service, which means we had a whole new wave of friends show up at the burial. It was humbling and tear-inducing and touched me in ways that the most well-written letter or most eloquent, comforting words couldn’t have. Your physical presence is important, even if you don’t have the right words. Just be there.

Take Care of the Physical Things

I never even considered that people who are grieving might need their basic needs taken care of. I just thought people dealing with grief needed kind words, space, and prayers. Those are great, but a hot meal when you don’t feel like cooking because you’ve been crying and in a daze all day is even better.

Our friends were seriously awesome when my mom died. My teacher friends took over my crazy classes and lesson plans. Some other friends watched our dog while we were gone and delivered him back to us freshly bathed. We also had fresh food in our fridge and pantry and a stack of gift cards to our favorite restaurants waiting for us when we got home. Some friends even mowed our lawn since we were gone for a whole week. Someone else brought us a couple meals that we could easily freeze or eat that week.

Taking care of those physical, tangible things meant so much, because I could take my time easing back into routine after a week away and we didn’t have to worry about anything back at home while we were away. And seriously, never underestimate the power of a hot meal delivered to someone’s doorstep. It should be a love language all on it’s own.

Just Do Something
I’m going to go ahead and clear something up. There is no “right” thing to say to people grieving. Nothing that people said made me feel better. But that doesn’t mean that you stand back and say nothing. The fact that people were there, saying things or taking time out of their day to send me a card or even a text; That meant something. If you feel like you don’t have anything to say, that’s ok! Hug them and let them know you’re praying for them (and then actually pray for them). Send them flowers. Send them a card and just sign your name and let Hallmark do the talking. Sit and cry and dwell in the “suckiness” of death with them. Just do something.

Keep the Encouragement Coming
Grief is not just a week long process. It doesn’t end when the funeral dismisses. Some of the things that have meant the most to me are the texts or Facebook messages or cards that I’ve received on Mother’s Day two and three years later. Or the people that boldly ask how I’m doing raising a daughter without my mom to call. The people that remember that this may still be hard; they’re my favorites.

Grieving With Grace
Lastly, to the people grieving: I encourage you to be quick to give grace to those who are trying to comfort you. It’s easy to get offended or hurt by those who have the best intentions but maybe not the best follow through or the most appropriate words. There have been insensitive things said and done to my family and I throughout our journey with grief, but I highly doubt anyone’s intentions have been to upset us further. Grief and death are awkward and honestly they suck, but your journey with it will be a lot easier if you don’t allow yourself to dwell on all the wrong things that people are saying or doing. Focus instead on being a grace-giver.

So What Now?
Losing my mom was definitely not a part of my long-term plan. This journey through grief has been one that has brought me to my knees, humbled me, and revealed my need for Jesus in a powerful and real way. I’ve found joy in grief. Especially in knowing that while it stinks right now, one day, away from this earth, it won’t. I have no doubts that my mom is hanging out with Jesus and whenever I picture her with Him, healed and whole again, I can’t help but smile and rejoice that we serve a loving and redeeming God who is powerful and sovereign in all steps of this life.

If you’re struggling with grief, need prayers, or want a little bit more info on what to say or do, please do not hesitate to shoot me an email.(katiembrowder@gmail.com)

If you’re a girl who has lost your mom, I would love to encourage you and pray for you. It is not a fun sisterhood to share in, but it does help knowing that others are walking (and sometimes trudging) down the same path.

When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Adoption Loss

We’re in the middle of a blog series on grief and loss over here. I’ve invited some friends to share their stories and give you some insight and advice on how to love your friends when they’re hurting. If you missed last week’s post, be sure to check it out here. A big thank you to Tiana for sharing their story with y’all today. This is just really good stuff.

Our story began in June 2008, just two years into our marriage. It began in Tanzania, in a small orphanage up on a hill. It began when I held a little girl named Bahati in my arms and knew we could be her mom and dad. It began when we were told that adopting in Tanzania was next to impossible, but that we could try it anyway. It began when we made the decision to jump into that big, scary, ugly process, regardless of the fact that we were young, naive, low on cash, and completely freaked out by it.

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I had never been part of a story this big, and it was exhilarating. It was frightening and frustrating, discouraging and confusing. And I had never felt more alive.

So you can imagine the paralyzing blow it was fourteen months later to find out our story was not ending in joy and success and the homecoming of Bahati. Instead, it ended abruptly – in tears, confusion, anger and broken hearts.
We had spent over a year pursuing Bahati’s adoption. Over a year of praying for her, preparing for her, working towards bringing her home. We spent six weeks in Tanzania with Bahati, going through the in-country application and home study process, soaking up as much time with our girl as possible, memorizing her smile, her scent, her laugh. We were all in – head over heels in love with this sassy little three-year-old, waiting for permission from Tanzania to move there in order to complete the in-country foster period and adoption process. And all of that was taken away with one little statement: Bahati is being adopted by someone else.

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This is a very lonely place to be. We were left with a grief we didn’t know how to process. She didn’t die, so we couldn’t quite connect with those who had lost children. We couldn’t really call it a miscarriage – not only had I never carried her in my body, but she had been a walking, talking part of our lives. And she was never truly ours to begin with, so it wasn’t exactly the same as having a child (either biological or foster) taken away. Our grief was unique, and though we felt the love and support of our family and friends, we still didn’t feel that anyone fully understood. And we couldn’t expect them to – it was our journey, after all, not theirs.

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To say we were crushed sounds insufficient. To say we were heartbroken sounds too cliche. All I know is we had never felt a pain like this before.

We were broken and angry, shouting questions that would never be answered to a God we were no longer sure how to approach. But the anger always eventually melted into surrender as the wound ached some more. I needed Him too much to stay angry with Him for long. Though I blamed Him for the pain I was experiencing, I also knew He was the only one with the power to heal it.

Because there is no formula for healing these kinds of griefs, friends. There is no checklist to follow. No timetable to chart. The pain often came in waves – sometimes in smaller bouts of grief that would rise and then recede just as suddenly; other times, in a tidal force that would knock our feet out from under us, leaving us wondering when we would surface again.

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People told me to give it time; so I did. (Because what else can you do?) But instead of getting easier, it was getting harder.

Every day I felt like I was farther away from her. It was harder to see her smile and to hear her giggle. I longed to remember the feeling of her tiny little weight in my arms, falling peacefully asleep against my chest, making both of us sweaty in the humidity of the Tanzanian night. I could hardly imagine those special moments we had together, just the two of us. Where she would dance around the room, then erupt into laughter as I scooped her up in my arms and twirled around with her. Where she would lift her arms up to me expectantly, commanding carry me in a language I struggled to understand. Where she would wrap her tiny arms so tightly around my neck, caught up in the emotion of the fun we were having. Where she would sigh and lean heavily against me as we rode through the busy streets of the city, content to be with this silly white girl who called herself Mama. All of the special moments that weren’t caught on camera, but had been so precious in my memory.

And Bahati was becoming just that: a memory. An image in my mind. The photos in frames that littered our living room shelves. The videos of her talking and laughing with her beautiful little Swahili tongue. But that was all. Just memories. Like she wasn’t continually growing and laughing and playing, getting more beautiful every day. Like she was just forever stuck in those moments right before her third birthday.

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And instead of easing the pain, time was making it sharper. Harder to bear.

Grief is like that, I think. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. And I’m not sure that it ever does get better. I think maybe we just become more accustomed to the new way of life it brings. We get used to waking up each morning, knowing all over again the person we love and miss will still be gone that day. Then we get out of bed and continue to live the life laid before us. Continue on in what has become our new normal way of existing.

There is no closure for a wound like this. There is only moving on with your life.

If you have a friend in the thick of grief, don’t abandon them. Don’t put a time-limit on your compassion. These things play out differently for everyone, and no one wants to feel like their grief is taking too long or inconveniencing others. Just keep on with them. Keep encouraging them. Keep crying with them. Keep assuring them this hand they have been dealt really does suck as much they feel like it does. Just be with them. It will look different in every relationship. But forget about time and cliches that attempt to comfort. Hug them. Take them out for dinner, if they feel like getting dressed. If they don’t, bring them a pizza and watch a stupid movie with them. If they want to talk, listen. If they don’t, just sit. Your pretense of understanding is unnecessary. Your compassion for their hurting hearts are what will help pull them out of bed on those harder days.

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There will always be a place in my heart reserved for Bahati – that sweet girl who forever changed my life. It has been six years now since we lost her. The pain isn’t as sharp, but I still think of her daily. I still wonder what her life is like today, and what ours would have been like had she never pulled us into our story. She played a crucial role in building our family, and we are so grateful for every moment we had with her. But sometimes, I am still surprised by the chokehold that grief can place on my heart. I still have longings, and unanswered questions, and some tears.

So if you have a friend in a place like this, give them your love. And let them know Mama Bahati understands their heart.

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Tiana Proudfoot lives in Virginia with her husband, her husky, and their beautiful, fun-loving, sassy-pants Ugandan daughter. Tiana is stumbling down the road of parenting the best she knows how, which usually means a whole lot of apologies and glimpses of grace; living on sunshine, love, caffeine and faith. She and her husband have been wrapped up in East Africa and international adoption since 2008, and they are now getting ready to welcome two boys from China into their crazy, messy family this fall. You can read more of their story at tianajane.wordpress.com

When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Miscarriages

Over the last few months I’ve had more than a handful of conversations with people where they say they just don’t know what to say or do when their friends are going through hard things. When people are hurting, it’s so awkward. I totally get it. Those conversations plus going through a major loss has made me want to help all the people out. Because this is the stuff of real life. So, we’re doing a blog series up in here and we’re calling it “When Your Friends Are Hurting.” I’ve invited some good people to share their stories and words of advice with you. They’ve all been in the trenches at some point for different reasons. They’ve also all come out of the trenches alive. They have some crazy good things to say. Y’all listen up.

Hi everyone! 🙂 My name is Savannah, and my husband and I miscarried our first pregnancy. Courtney contacted me awhile back asking if I’d be willing to share some of our story and provide advice/guidance on ways to help others when they experience a lost pregnancy. So here goes…

Our Story

We found out we were pregnant at the beginning of December, 2012. Best Christmas present ever!! After 8 months of anxiously waiting for that positive test, we got FOUR! Just in case the first one was wrong… and the second, and the third. Our first appointment was scheduled for a few weeks later, and all went smoothly. They measured the baby, and we got to hear the heartbeat. I still have the recording on my phone. We named our teeny tiny little baby Peep, and we prayed for a healthy baby.

On December 22, two days after our perfect appointment, we gave Peep back to Jesus. We absolutely didn’t want to. My husband rushed to L&D after I call him hysterical because there’s blood. I have not one, not two, but three OBGYN’s exam me just trying to give us something to hope for. We’re left crying in the elevator on the way back to our car, because ultimately, our baby is gone. It sucks when you don’t have a choice in these moments, doesn’t it? When you feel like your world is falling out from under you, spinning around you, and all you can do is watch. You didn’t give your permission. It’s just happening. You want to throw up.

The days that follow are a blur. It was three days before Christmas. How much crummier can it get? Our perfect, precious, wanted Christmas present, gone. And all we’re left with is pain. Physical for me, emotional for us. The day we found out we were miscarrying we opened Christmas presents. We wanted to have something enjoyable about that day. Something to take our minds off of it. I absolutely just wanted to skip Christmas that year. Being surrounded by 50+ family members almost did me in. They had the best of intentions, but it was overwhelming. I just wanted to lay on my bed and cry.

One of my employees sent me flowers. The day we miscarried, flowers showed up on my door. I was overcome by the thoughtfulness of her gesture, and I appreciated it so much. She showed me love.

The day after Christmas, we took off to San Antonio, and it was the BEST THING WE EVER DID. When you’re grieving, I 100% suggest getting away. Whatever that means to you—whether that’s going to the park or going to Hawaii. Allow yourself a few days, and then get out of the house. Our miscarriage was the lowest point of my life, but I remember our weekend getaway with the best, most loving memories. We mourned. We laughed. We cried. We celebrated life. We just were. We lived in the moment. We embraced the ugly crap we were going through and we enjoyed starting the healing process together.

Right when I was starting to feel more like myself, I found out two of my family members were pregnant, due one day apart and in the same month I would have been due. And I was back at square one. I felt selfish for hurting. How is it even possible for me to be happy for them while I’m dealing with all this pain? I tell you this, the best words anyone ever said to me were: It is OK for you to be happy for others while still grieving for yourself. You are not a bad person for your grief. I repeat: You are not a bad person for your grief.

One great piece of advice we were given was to do something together to remember our baby. So we did. On Peep’s due date, we bought cookie cake and ice cream. We’ll do this every year. It provides us healing while also opening back up our hearts to feel for that baby. For us, that baby deserves one day a year to be remembered, celebrated, and mourned for. Maybe for someone else that means getting a tattoo or buying a birthstone.

For those on the outside:

Woah. Some phrases are just big fat doozies. If you know someone who has miscarried, for the love of all that’s good, please refrain from the following:

“At least you know you can get pregnant.” Don’t say this. For a woman who has no children and just had a miscarriage, knowing she can get pregnant may ease one fear, but her new fear is can she stay pregnant.

“These things happen for a reason.” Well, thank you very much for making me feel 0% better.

“You’re strong. You’ll get through this.” I may be strong, and you may mean this as a compliment. But now I feel like I can’t be weak in front of you, because you expect strength. Maybe I want to have a big, fat, ugly cry fest. You need to let me. Then take me out for ice cream.

“At least you weren’t that far along.” I admit, now that I have my son, if we were to lose him I would grieve for him in a different, even deeper way than I did Peep. But it doesn’t matter if you’ve been pregnant 5 minutes or 5 months. The second you find out you are pregnant, your heart opens in a way you cannot describe. Please do not minimalize my pain in this way.

What can you do?

How about this instead: “What you’re going through totally sucks. I’m bringing you dinner, and I’m leaving it on your front porch.”

Or some variation of that. Show love. Isn’t it much more powerful that way, anyway?

The most wonderful thing my best friend did was treat me like normal. She loved me like she’s always loved me. She told me she was grieving with me, but she didn’t ask how I was every single day. When I wanted to bring it up, she listened. When I didn’t, she texted me about all the other day to day things we randomly talk about. I wasn’t someone to pity in her eyes. I was her best friend going through a hard time who needed a sense of normalcy. She felt that, and she acted normal. She didn’t blow the situation off. She didn’t act like it never happened. But she loved me the same.

If you know someone going through a miscarriage (besides the obvious of praying for them), love them. Don’t pity them. Don’t say a bunch of cliché things just because you don’t know what to say. If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Send them flowers. Leave dinner on their doorstep. Drop a Starbucks card in the mail. Clean their house one day while they’re at work. If the couple has children, volunteer to watch their kids for an evening so they can go out on a date.

Be a light in their darkness. They will remember your good actions and they will remember your bad words.

For those going through it:

If you’re experiencing the loss of a baby, I encourage you to also think about the others who may be grieving with you. It is not their direct loss, but those that love you are hurting with you. What about the woman who cannot get pregnant? How does her grief look when she is hurting for herself and you? What about the first-time grandma who is hurting for the loss of her grandchild AND the pain of her daughter? She’s the mom who wants to make it all better but can’t. Please do not be afraid to grieve with these people. There is healing in that.

Special thank you to Courtney for asking me to share my heart with you, and please feel free to contact me anytime at shennig0328@gmail.com.

A HUGE thank you to Savannah for being willing to share their story. So many good things. If you’ve been through a miscarriage, do you have anything else to add?